MASTER OF MUSICAL TRADITION
Gambia’s musical pioneer Sona Jobarteh is simultaneously preserving tradition and uprooting traditional patriarchal norms as the first female Kora virtuoso to come from a West African Griot family. (The Kora is a 21-string African harp.) The artist is a master of the the musical tradition, which has been handed down from father-to-son exclusively in Griot families for the past seven centuries. Jobarteh is preserving the culture while disrupting it; a duality important to note in youth culture, as many young Africans work to balance the new world with the old. And she’s solving important social and cultural issues while doing so.
Education and arts are at the forefront of those issues. Jobarteh founded the The Gambia Academy of Music and Culture in 2015 to merge tradition with social development. Comprised of six departments—junior school, music, dance, film, library and concert hall—the academy is designed to enhance a specific area of “artistic and cultural development,” according to the site. Her investment, however, goes beyond art and music; according to her website, Jobarteh supports all school costs as the students’ families are unable to pay for school fees.